Working Toward Winter Happiness: Week Five

I’ve been taking my friends’ advice about how to enjoy winter for four weeks now, setting goals and tracking my performance against them along with my overall mood. Let’s see how I did this week:

Objectives One and Two – Get outdoors and Dress Warmly:

There’s so much research saying getting outside is important to mental health and happiness. But living in a highrise where so much can be delivered and in a time where working from home is common makes that not as automatic as it used to be. As it gets colder, I often fail to keep up with the weather, dressing poorly and feeling grumpy that I’m cold. After a few experiences like that I have one more reason to stay indoors. But my goal is now to get out every day and always dress appropriately. So how did it go this week?

The temperatures were still pretty warm but it’s also been that weird time of year where mornings are cold and a jacked is needed but afternoons are warm. Before this project I’d just suffer in the morning and be happy in the afternoon. Unless I worked late then I’d be cold on the way home. Not this week. I went out 6/7 days and every time I went out I was warm enough. I have not yet felt crabby that the temperature wasn’t warm.

Score: Objective 1: 6/7 days = 86%, Objective 2: 100%

Objective Three: Running:

My goal this week was to get outside three times. There was a rainy night and another night where we had to muddle through a 16 hour power cut (repairs after the fire) where I could have gone out. But I can see right now one of my big things to work through is rationalizing mediocrity. I could’ve gone out either of those days but it was a good excuse to give in to inertia. So I did.

But the running itself was quite good. Monday I did a fast run on an old route on the street. Redoing the third week was a great choice as it still is feeling challenging but I think it’s improving also:

Tonight was my second run for the week. I ended up doing a bit on the road and then went down into the ravine for some peace and quiet.

It seems to be getting easier and a little faster also which is what I need to be doing.

Objective 3: 2/3 days running = 67% 

Objective 4: Cycling:

I targeted two days for cycling this week and I managed to get it. Sunday I hooked up my grocery trailer to the bike and rode a few kilometres to a grocery store I really like to do the week’s big shopping trip. I got the trailer in the early pandemic when many places were doing curbside pickup. I’d park the bike in the pickup space and they’d load my trailer like they load people’s car trunks. But once things were open for indoor shopping it became even more useful. I park the bike outside, disconnect the trailer and use it as a shopping cart. Then instead of using bags, I just put everything back in the trailer as I check out. When I get home I lock my bike in the bike room, disconnect the trailer and wheel it into the kitchen where I unload it. Done and done.

Last night I did a 30 minute bike ride on Zwift. I liked how easy it was to just finish work and go. Minimal preparation required.

This “preparation” is my current barrier to getting 100% on these challenges. I give myself too many opportunities for decision after work. When do I want to go? Should I go now or later? Indoor or outdoor ride? Outdoor ride or run? What clothes should I wear and where should I go. On Friday I just said “I will turn off my work computer, change into bike clothes and turn on my home computer and ride. Every decision should be that easy.

Objective 5: Get a good sleep:

I feel like sleep and eating are the foundation for every other habit and for one’s ability to maintain a good mood. So I’ve been targeting 6.5 hours or more per night of sleep. This week I averaged 6.47 hours. Almost there. Unlike last week, though, I didn’t have any nights of truly awful sleep. I did wake up two nights this week but not so long. Mostly my reasons for getting less sleep have more to do with waking up 20-30 minutes before my alarm goes off (so 4:30 AM) and then feeling like I might as well wake up as I feel awake and by the time I get to sleep it’ll be time to wake up anyway. So I just wake up. I’ll watch this one and decide if I need to go to bed earlier to compensate for that.

I will say, though, that drinking less coffee has made it much easier to sleep through the night. So that’s definitely a win.

Objective 5: 5/7 days with 6.5 hours or more sleep: 71.4%

Objective 6: Eating Properly

This week was OK for most of the week however temptations got me. On Thursday at work someone brought in treats for Diwali: Dal vada, dhokla, gulab jamun and I ate far too much of that and didn’t really have any veggies (I had veggies in the lunch I packed but didn’t eat that after I filled up on treats). The next night I was tempted by a new bakery across the street that makes fresh huge naan about a metre long, fresh from the oven with sesame and kalonji seeds on top. I bought one and ate a bunch while I was cooking a proper dinner. So I could have had more veggies but instead just ate bread and didn’t really eat it mindfully. Still, it was delicious!

Objective 6: 5/7 days of eating properly: 71.4%

So what is the score this week?

Objective One: 86% = 14.33 Points
Objective Two: 100% = 16.67 Points
Objective Three: 67% = 11.17 Points
Objective Four: 100% = 16.67 Points
Objective Five: 71.4% = 11.9 Points
Objective Six: 71.4% = 11.9 Points

Total: 81.6%: 7.3% higher than last week

Mood wise, this has been a better week. A few trips to work, a festive day, and some improvement on these habits puts my score for average mood at a 76.4% – 4.6 percentage points higher. And looking back I think that’s a pretty accurate measurement. I feel pretty good about how the week went.

So the question is: is it correlation, causation, or pure placebo. I rode my bike a little more, slept a little better but also ate a little less healthily (but with more enjoyment so how do I assess that properly?)

In the end, I’m not sure it matters. What I will say is that I’m enjoying tracking these metrics and being aware of them. Whether they actually have an effect on my mood remains to be seen. But to figure that out, I’m going to have to work a little harder. Let’s see if I can get at least one more metric above 100%. I think I can do running and cycling at 100%. Come back next week to see if I pulled that off!

One thought on “Working Toward Winter Happiness: Week Five

  1. I am glad for you Todd. The trailer is very good and thank you for writing how you use it. The Diwali treats are always delicious 😋 and the nan sounds wonderful and difficult to ignore.

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